Words by Kim Burton
According to one story, the last music heard by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the night before going to his death, was played by a tamburica orchestra; if it sounded anything like virtuoso Hungarian band Söndörgő then I wouldn’t mind following his example. The mandolin-like tambura/tamburica, a fixture of South Slav music-making, comes in various sizes, including an impressively large bass, but although the group’s core repertoire is from that tradition, they leaven it with a number of Macedonian melodies (in a heavily Turkish style) which, although pleasant enough, tend to ramble and rather outstay their welcome. Nonetheless, the sparkling and ebullient Serbian and Croatian songs and dances would make this a joyous addition to anyone’s library, and the beautiful and subtle reading of two classic melodies from Vojvodina in ‘Evo Srcu’ is a true marvel.
There are two unexpected presences, or ghosts here, as well: the bagpipe and Béla Bartók. The language of the opener, ‘Joza’, is reminiscent of some of that composer’s folksong arrangements for piano and violin duet, and shares its drone-based harmonies with the thrilling ‘Srpski Madjarik,’ followed by an extract from his 1912 field recording of the same tune on a bagpipe. Interesting, and fun. What more could you ask?